Finding an online Ph.D. in Internet Security is not a difficult task, especially as the internet becomes an integral part of life here in the United States. The need for well-trained professionals in this field is growing, and educational institutions are leaping at the chance to provide online options for professionals who are already working in the field.
But for professionals who are currently busy with their careers, the idea of having to sit down and find an online program on their own time can stop them from actually moving forward with this goal. That's why this ranking was created; with information focusing on residency requirements, degree requirements, and also online features, this list will help internet security professions narrow down their list without having to do the research themselves.
There are numerous online Ph.D. in Internet Security degrees that are available to students, so it is necessary to narrow down the field. This ranking was created by using information that is publicly available through the National Center of Educational Statistics' College Navigator search tool; factors included tuition rates, gainful employment disclosures, and financial aid information. From the initial pool of 90 schools, the final nine were chosen based off of in-state graduate tuition. These are listed below in descending order, starting with the most expensive program.
Ranking Low-cost Online Internet Security PhD Programs
8. New York University
New York City, New York
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science
New York University confers an Internet Security Ph.D. online that is broad in scope but offers a variety of electives to help professionals specialize in the field. This is because the school regularly focuses on cybersecurity as a research issue, enabling students from both the traditional and hybrid pathways to aid professors in that work. This program is hybrid in nature, so students should be aware that some trips to the campus, especially during the dissertation phase, are necessary. The program requires 60 credit hours of coursework, a research project, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Network Security, Artificial Intelligence, and High-Performance Computer Architecture.
7. Northeastern University
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Information Assurance
A great online Ph.D. in Internet Security comes from Northeastern University. The program, which focuses on information assurance, prepares professionals to take roles that see them work with data networks and information systems in a variety of sectors. This is a great option for students who wish to become researchers in the field because the program is affiliated with the International Secure Systems Lab, an international collaboration of researchers who focus on internet security. The school is also the lead institution for the ALERT Center, which is a coalition of different universities that are approved by the Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence. This program requires 60 credit hours of coursework and a dissertation; research projects are not required but are highly encouraged. Sample courses include Information Retrieval, Software Vulnerabilities and Security, and Cyberlaw: Privacy, Ethics and Digital Rights.
6. Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Information Assurance (DIA)
Students interested in an Internet security doctorate online are advised to seriously consider Nova Southeastern University. The Ph.D. in Information Assurance, also known as DIA, is recognized by both the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. This is a hybrid degree that requires both online coursework as well as courses taught at the school's campus. The program was designed to prepare students to take on roles at governmental agencies, including intelligence agencies, and follows a comprehensive and multidisciplinary format. This program requires 64 credit hours of coursework and research, a dissertation, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Network Security and Cryptography, Managing Risk in Secure Systems, and Artificial Intelligence.
5. Walden University
Online Doctor of Information Technology, Cybersecurity Concentration
Walden University confers an internet security online Ph.D. that offers students the opportunity to gain a general degree while specializing in cybersecurity. This is an evidenced-based degree that requires no campus residencies, making it a great choice for students all across the country. Students will learn strategic leadership skills and research concepts not available at the graduate level and spend much of their time working on research projects to help aid in expanding cybersecurity knowledge. This program has also been recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by both the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency; it is a good choice for students interested in entering the government sector after graduation. This degree requires 64-semester credits of coursework, research, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Fundamentals of Information Systems, Systems Analysis and Design, Operating System and Network Architecture.
4. New Jersey City University
Jersey City, New Jersey
Online Doctor of Science in Civil Security Leadership, Management, and Policy
Students interested in finding a Ph.D. Internet security online program will find that the offering from New Jersey City University is a competitive yet rewarding option. This program is approved by the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency, the CIA, and the FBI, making it an in-demand program that is rarely found at any other school. As a hybrid program, students should expect to spend two weeks during the summer and four weekends during the academic year at the campus; these residencies offer students the chance to attend symposiums and lectures given by former and current professionals operating in the field. This degree focuses on policy and management within the cybersecurity field, offering students the opportunity to learn how policy affects the field in real time. This degree requires 48 credit hours, research, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Data Analysis for Civil Security Leadership, Management and Policy, Communications for Civil Security Leadership, Management and Policy, and Civil Security Policy/Budget Development and Implementation.
3. Colorado Technical University
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Online Doctor of Computer Science, Cybersecurity and Information Assurance Specialization
Colorado Technical University confers an online Doctorate in Computer Science that is recognized by the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense (CAE IA/CD) university. It is an evidence-based degree that focuses on teaching students the proper research methods and theories so that they may then be able to apply what they have learned to real-world cybersecurity issues. This program has an online curriculum with in-person symposiums experiences, enabling students to continue in their current careers without disruption. This degree plan requires 100 quarter credits of coursework which culminate into a dissertation. Sample courses from this program include Security Management, Foundations of Digital Systems Security, and Enterprise Security Architecture.
2. Northcentral University
San Diego, California
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Technology and Innovation Management, Specialized in Cybersecurity
Northcentral University confers an online Internet Security Ph.D. that requires no campus residencies and is completed entirely online. This is a program dedicated to preparing students to take on leadership roles in both the government and public. One of the major program outcomes is that students will be able to anticipate, research, analyze, and mitigate cybersecurity threats and risks. It is a comprehensive degree that takes 50 months to complete with full-time study; students have up to seven years to complete all the requirements. Along with 60 credit hours of coursework, students must also complete a research project, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Cyber Forensics, Advanced Risk Management, and Contingency Planning and Disaster Recovery.
1. Dakota State University
Madison, South Dakota
Online Doctor of Science in Cyber Security
Dakota State University confers an online Ph.D. Internet Security degree that focuses entirely on cybersecurity, offering students the ability to obtain a comprehensive foundation in computer science while gaining critical knowledge in the changing aspects of the field. While this degree is conferred entirely online, students should be aware that some states do require residency at the school; it is critical that student check with the school prior to enrolling in a hybrid pathway is not right for them. This program has a variety of distinctions and partnerships; most notable is the recognition placed on the program by the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security, although the CIA and the FBI have strong relationships with the school as well. Courses are taught by current and former professionals in the field as well, offering students the chance to learn from those who have put their knowledge to practice. This degree requires 70 credit hours of coursework, research, and a dissertation; a comprehensive exam is also necessary. Sample courses include Cybersecurity Research Methodologies, Advanced Reverse Engineering, and Advanced Malware Analysis.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for an Online Doctorate in Internet Security Degree?
There are four career options for those who pursue an online doctorate in this field. They include working in the private sector, the government, as academics and as freelancers.
Working for the private sector includes serving as Internet security professionals for national and international companies, banks, technology firms, and more. These professionals can work as information assurance analysts, cybersecurity specialists, Chief Technology Officers, and more. In most cases, these professionals will report directly to the leadership of the company.
An equally popular option is to work for the government; this includes the military and for intelligence agencies. This is a demanding career that starts with an exhaustive application process, training, and then matriculation into the government as a federal employee. These specialists work as analysts, researchers, special agents, and managers, working side by side with other government employees to keep the country and its citizens safe.
The third option is to work as an academic. These professionals become professors and researchers, often working in university settings or with think tanks to provide the next generation of Internet security professionals with actionable intelligence that can help stop cyber warfare and crime. It is an option that is best suited for professionals who are interested more in the data of Internet security than in working in the field.
The fourth option is still developing, but still important to mention. Internet security professionals do work as freelancers and can build a sustainable and honorable career doing so. This can include working as a consultant for the government or the private sector, investigating particular cyber issues as a journalist or author, or even building workshops and programs designed to further develop an internet security professional's understanding of the field.
How Much Can You Earn in this Field?
The range of salaries available in the field of Internet security varies; students will find that the private sector pays well, but the government pays considerable. This is because while private companies do have a growing need to protect sensitive information, including private citizen information, the government works on a national scale and requires more professionals than the private sector.
The private sector pays anywhere between $90,000 to $100,000 as a starting salary. The actual salary could vary depending on the size of the company and how many years of work experience a professional has in the field. Additionally, several companies also have yearly bonuses and other compensation. It is relatively easy to find a job in Internet security in the private sector but may require a move to a metropolitan area, where most technology companies are found.
The government's military branches all pay between $90,000 to $100,000 as well but may be seen as more lucrative than private sectors. This is because, along with a salary, these positions come with monthly stipends for housing and health insurance; retirement packages are also lucrative. However, it is important to note that the military only provides positions for military members; professionals will have to join one of the branches in order to gain the position.
The intelligence agencies pay considerably more, with some offering as much as $125,000 as a starting salary. Again, just like in the military, a professional must join the agency in order to be eligible for the position. Professionals must undergo a rigorous application as well, but they are rewarded with a comprehensive benefits package that includes professional training, the ability to work overseas, health insurance, retirement packages, and more.
What are the Various Disciplines of Internet Security?
Internet security is a broad term that encompasses information assurance, information systems, cybersecurity, and more. It is best thought of as a multidisciplinary degree that fuses computer science with homeland security. For this reason, there are various disciplines associated with the degree.
The most important disciplines remain computer science and homeland security. Because professionals who are interested in this field often work in cybersecurity in government agencies, an understanding of both disciplines is necessary; in terms of cybersecurity, they are critically linked.
But these are not the only disciplines in Internet security. Professionals who work specifically in cybersecurity will be expected to have a comprehensive understanding of cybercrime, a subfield under criminology, as well as math and engineering. This is because many cybercrimes focus on structures and architectures within the software. Software design and information assurance play a large role in this position as well.
Researchers in this field will be tasked with having a fundamental understanding of the history of cybercrime and cybersecurity, how it has evolved over the years, and the statistics and theories that are currently being investigated in the field. They may also work with developing technologies to see if new security measures can be implemented both in the public and private sectors.
All Internet security professionals are also tasked with learning about management and leadership at the doctoral level. This is because many of them will enter the field at senior management levels, and therefore these skills are critical.
What is CAE/IAE and is it Important for this Degree?
Professionals in the field have no doubt heard of the Information Assurance Courseware Evaluation Program, which is also known as the IACE program. It is a program developed by the National Security Agency to guide schools in delivering the education this agency, and other intelligence agencies, require in professionals entering the field. It is also the program schools need to align to prior to being recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education, which is known as CAE/IAE.
This distinction is important to professionals who wish to work for the government after completing their degree. It is a mark of excellence and also provides evidence to the NSA, the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, and the FBI that a student has an education that aligns to the values and needs of these agencies. During the employment process, it serves as an indicator to government agencies that these candidates should be preferred over other candidates that did not attend a CAE/IAE program.
Many cheap online Internet security Ph.D. programs, as well as traditional programs, offer this distinction and agencies do not care how a student earned the degree, so long as they can demonstrate they completed the program. Therefore, the distinction is important for those students who have a goal of working for the government.
Additionally, many of the programs on this list have tuition incentives for government employees working in Internet security; the government will partially pay for the cost of the degree so long as that student remains an employee of any federal agency. This is a good thing to keep in mind when looking for ways to further reduce the cost of doctoral education.
Do You Need to Understand all Programming Languages to be Successful in Internet Security?
There is a lot of discussion of how many programming languages an Internet Security professional needs to understand in order to be successful in their position. There is no consensus yet on whether it is necessary to be facile in all of the languages, but students are encouraged to learn as many as possible.
It is critical that professionals understand at least some programming languages, especially the ones most used by the government. This is why so few professionals from outside of the computer science field rarely earn a doctorate in this field; it is a requirement by most programs, including the ones on this list, that a student can demonstrate knowledge in popular programming languages with a degree in the subject.
Most professionals who are earning their doctorate in this field will already have an intimate understanding of the most popular languages, including Python, C++, HTML, Java, C#, PHP, Perl, and others. This understanding comes from both their previous background in computer science and programming; these are also the most used by cybercriminals who are attempting to hack into sensitive networks.
The need to learn outdated or esoteric programming languages is unnecessary because few sensitive networks and architectures use them. However, some professionals may find it useful to learn these languages if only to understand how coding has evolved over the years.
Internet security continues to be a concern, not only for large businesses and the government but also for private citizens. As technology continues to advance cybercrime, educational institutions must keep up with demand for Internet security professionals. Now all students can find an online Ph.D. in Internet Security degree that can help them reach their goals.
Updated: March 4, 2020